The first in-depth look at an influential engineer and aviation pioneer.
"An impressive, truly significant addition to the field of engineering and aeronautical
history. Simine Short shows how Octave Chanute's personality and method of problem-
solving enabled him to make meaningful contributions in diverse fields such as railroad
and bridge engineering, stockyard design, and the early phase of aviation."
-- Robert W. Jackson, licensed glider pilot and author of Rails across the Mississippi: A History of the St. Louis Bridge
"As the first detailed biography of civil engineer and aeronautic pioneer Octave
Chanute, this book fills a gap in the existing literature and is suitable for both
the lay reader and the expert."
--Anthony M. Springer, editor of Aerospace
Design: Aircraft, Spacecraft, and the Art of Modern Flight
"We have waited a long time for a solid biography of Octave Chanute. Simine Short
has given us a book worth waiting for. She succeeds in situating the details of
Chanute's long life and extraordinary career squarely in the context of his time."
-- Tom D. Crouch, Senior Curator, Aeronautics, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian
French-born and self-trained engineer Octave Chanute designed America's two largest
stockyards, created innovative and influential structures such as the Kansas City
Bridge over what was commonly known as the unbridgeable Missouri River, and was
a passionate aviation pioneer whose collaborative approach to aeronautical engineering
problems encouraged several want-to-be aeronautical experimenters, including the
Wright brothers. Drawing on a rich trove of archival material and exclusive family
sources, Locomotive to Aeromotive
is the first detailed examination of Chanute's life and his immeasurable contributions
to the fields of engineering and transportation, from the ground transportation
revolution of the mid-nineteenth century to the early days of aviation.
Aviation researcher and historian Simine Short brings to light in colorful detail
many previously overlooked facets of Chanute's life, in both his professional accomplishments
in multiple disciplines and his personal relationships as a respected mentor and
friend to many civil engineers and aviation pioneers. In the latter part of the
19th century, few men were committed to the establishment of engineering
as a profession on par with law or medicine, but Chanute devoted much time and energy
to the newly established professional societies that were created to set standards
and serve the needs of civil engineers. Though best known for his aviation work,
he became a key figure in the opening of the American continent by laying railroad
tracks and building bridges, experiences that later gave him the engineering knowledge
to build the first stable aircraft structure. Chanute also established a procedure
for pressure-treating wooden railroad ties with an anti-septic that increased the
wood's life-span in the tracks. Establishing the first commercial plants, he convinced
railroad men that it was commercially feasible to make money by spending money on
treating ties to conserve natural resources. As a way to track the age and longevity
of railroad ties and other wooden structures, he also introduced the railroad date
nail in the United States.
A versatile engineer, Chanute was known as a kind and generous colleague during
his career. Using correspondence and other materials previously not available to
scholars and biographers, Short covers Chanute's formative years in antebellum America,
as well as his experiences traveling from New Orleans to New York, his apprenticeship
on the Hudson River Railroad, and his early engineering successes. His multiple
contributions into the realms of railway expansion, bridge building, and wood preservation,
established his reputation as one of the most successful and distinguished civil
engineers in the nation. And instead of retiring, he utilized his experiences and
knowledge as a bridge builder in the development of motorless flight. Through the
reflections of other engineers, scientists and pioneers in various fields who knew
him, Short characterizes Chanute as a man who believed in fostering and supporting
people who were willing to learn. This well-researched biography cements Chanute's
place as a pre-eminent engineer, pioneer, and mentor in the history of transportation
in the United States and the development of the airplane.
Simine Short is an aviation historian who has researched and written extensively
on the history of motorless flight. Her first book,
Glider Mail, an Aerophilatlic Handbook, received numerous research awards
world-wide and is considered a standard reference by aerophilatelists and aviation
researchers. She lives with her husband outside Chicago, Illinois.